S.Africa’s energy mix must incorporate nuclear - CNBC Africa

S.Africa’s energy mix must incorporate nuclear

Southern Africa

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Serfontein says Koeberg was bought cheaply and it was paid off a long time ago. PHOTO: 25degrees.net

“If you think of South Africa, we’ve got a morning demand peak and in the evening when they go home, the demand goes up. Nuclear is not good for supplying those peaks because nuclear is at its most efficient if you keep it running at 100 per cent power – [it] is not the full solution,” he indicated.

“A good solution would be nuclear with combined cycle gas turbines on top of that to supply the peaks. We must just notice that it takes longer to build a nuclear plant then to build other plants so it will come online later, but it’s definitely part of the mix.”

However, Serfontein, who spoke at the Africa Energy Indaba, currently being held in South Africa, also stated that newer nuclear plants will cost more than that of South Africa’s only current plant – Koeberg.

(READ MORE: France’s Areva to refit S.African nuclear plant)

“Koeberg was bought cheaply and it was paid off a long time ago so the capital cost of Koeberg is almost zero. New plants are much more expensive than the old generation plants were because they are now much more sophisticated, noting also the safety upgrades that have taken place,” he said.

“My calculations show that coal power is slightly cheaper than nuclear, if you don’t add the external costs. The latest calculations that I have done say you can generate coal power for about 70 cents per kilowatt hour, nuclear for about 80, gas for about 90 and solar is above one rand.”

He further emphasised these external costs, stating that all forms of energy have some kind of negative effect on the environment.

“Coal has got the largest of them all. There are health problems – the smoke from coal-fired power stations. When you add those costs, coal becomes slightly more expensive than nuclear.”

(READ MORE: Nuclear a reliable energy source for S.Africa)

Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa chief executive, Phumzile Tshelane added that with reagrds to nuclear energy, South Africa is currently conducting a pre-procurement process. 

“As far back as early last year, the minister of energy started doing fact-finding missions to vendor countries that are deploying nuclear today, and have deployed nuclear previously. These are countries such as Japan, North Korea, France, Russia, China and the United States of America,” he said.

“The next process was to do inter-governmental agreements with these potential vendor countries. Those that signed these agreements were invited to bring their companies to South Africa to share how they are willing to collaborate with South Africa.”

He also indicated that companies from different industries in these countries were then asked to show how they could assist South Africa in doing nuclear projects.

“It’s not fully complete yet [but] once that is done, government will use the information to put in place a procurement strategy,” Tshelane explained.

“We’re looking to reinvigorate the manufacturing industry, uranium beneficiation, the skills that need to go into the construction, maintenance and operations. We’re looking to domesticate the capability to deploy nuclear in South Africa, and therefore in Africa and the world.”

(READ MORE: S.Africa must embrace nuclear energy development)

He added that the country has been doing environmental impact assessments around the available sites for nuclear since 2006.

“Effectively there are three sites that are available today – Duynefontein on the North-West coast of the country, where the Koeberg power station is,” Tshelane stated.

“There’s another site in the Western Cape that is south from that called Bantamsklip, and then we have a site in the Eastern Cape, close to Port Elizabeth, called Thyspunt. These are the sites that have been shortlisted for deployment of nuclear power programmes in South Africa.”